Monday, April 25, 2011

The U.S. needs more Donnie Yen!

Why isn't Donnie Yen a much larger star/actor in the United States?  He's got the looks, he's an amazing martial artist and he's got the acting chops to carry a film.  But somehow we got the smurf-like Jet Li, whose voice is as threatening as Miley Cyrus', and Jackie Chan, always the accidental hero, who after more than 10 years of living in the U.S., I still can't understand the words that are coming out of his mouth.  Now don't get me wrong, I love Jet Li and Jackie Chan (although I love the Hong Kong film versions of themselves more), but isn't it time we had a martial arts action star that this generation can get behind?

I recently went to see "Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen", starring Donnie Yen.  If you've seen the trailers, it looked awesome!  It was an opening night showing at the Laemmle Sunset 5, Friday, 7:20 pm.  There should have been a lot of people there, right?  Wrong.  There were less than 20 people, half of them were from the martial arts school that gave a demonstration before the movie, and I was the only Asian American male there.  That's right, not even the martial arts school had an Asian male studying there.  The sifu (teacher) was actually Caucasian.  

If you're like me, then you hopefully have found a couple of things wrong with that scenario.

Why was there such a poor showing for this movie?  Was it because it was an international movie that was subtitled?  It's in the heart of West Hollywood, so location isn't an issue.  Was there not enough marketing behind it?  Are people not a fan of martial arts movies anymore?  I know that last statement is not true because epic period-style martial arts movies are garnering much acclaim at many international film festivals.  So what happened?  I thought the movie was awesome.  I literally said "oh sh!t!" probably 3 times within the first 10 minutes of the movie, just due to the badassery that is Donnie Yen.  But where was everyone?  What kind of message are we sending to Hollywood with this lack of support?  "Legend of the Fist" grossed $26 million overseas, but only made a measly $11,000 on opening weekend in the U.S.

Many of my fellow actors complain that there aren't enough roles for Asian actors.  They also complain that many movies are being "white-washed" to star Caucasian actors, even though it's an adaptation of an Asian film. But can you really blame Hollywood?  People forget that Hollywood is a business.  If it doesn't make money, they're not going to do it.  Why would Hollywood make an Asian-centric movie if only 10 people are going to show up to it?  There are 10 million Asian Americans in the U.S. according to the 2000 census, but with the way we're supporting the arts, you'd think there were only 1,000.

So get out and support what you're passionate about.  Be active in the community and show them that you have a voice and that you matter.

A great starting point would be the L.A. Asian Pacific Film Festival, starting April 28th!  It opens with "Fast Five"!  I'm volunteering for the festival so come find me and say hi!  Tell all of your friends to come and enjoy the festivities.  When I tell my friends about the Asian Pacific Film Festival, the typical response I get is: "But I'm not Asian."  So?!  Just because the word "Asian" is in the festival title doesn't mean that you have to be Asian to attend!  The festival features films from Asian filmmakers, hence the title, but that's where the "Asian" part ends!  It's a film festival, people!  Support the arts!

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